There's a panic spreading across a certain sector of the city. Pre-Giuliani New York is coming back!
For mega-realtor Robert Knakal at the Commercial Observer, crime is "increasing like wildfire." And along with all the "shootings and murders" comes "an alarming degradation in quality of life issues, which mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg worked so hard to improve." The terror? Squeegee guys and homeless people.
All of this, Knakal argues, is bad for tourism and the high price of commercial real estate.
"Fuck You Pay Me" guy, with anarchy tattoo, Times Square
The New York Post is having a field day with this idea that New York is experiencing an increase in its homeless population.
John Podhoretz is worried about the degradation of the urban streetscape. He wrote about high-rent blight, all those shuttered businesses sitting dead due to insane rent hikes, then argued about an apparent increase in aggressive "panhandlers from the neighborhood’s bad old days."
Tom Wilson is worried about homeless people pissing in the streets and sleeping outside Victoria's Secret, where they drive away the customers. “It reminds me of the pre-Giuliani era,” said one Penn Station commuter. “The police aren’t chasing them away anymore.”
A whole team of Post writers are worried about Tompkins Square Park filling up with "herds" of vagrants. “I really don’t enjoy the beauty of the park anymore because I’m too scared to walk through it,” said one NYU student.
(When will the Post pick up on the purse and iPhone snatchings in the East Village?)
In sum, the increased presence of homeless people means: 1. High rents will come down, 2. Customers won't shop at suburban chain stores anymore, 3. The tourists will finally go home, and 4. NYU students will be afraid of the East Village.
How is any of this a bad thing?
The panic has even gone national. "Beggars everywhere," says right-wing scaremonger Bill O'Reilly, who believes that homelessness "exploded" under Bill de Blasio. "And that is a totally different change from the Bloomberg administration. They're wiping your windows, they're following you down the street."
It's "anarchy" says O'Reilly. Anarchy!
"Cash" outside Chase Bank, E. Village
We saw this same panic back in 2008, after Wall Street's crash. Everyone was wringing their hands about the "bad old days." They did not return and they're unlikely to do so today.
Also, let's get it right. The increase in homelessness was a Bloomberg problem.
The homeless population exploded during the billionaire mayor's reign, with numbers unmatched since the Great Depression. Bloomberg increased homelessness in the city by withholding affordable housing. For decades, people who applied through the city’s shelter system were given priority for federal housing programs like Section 8. Bloomberg cut them off. In a paranoid fantasy, he believed in a “perverse incentive” for homelessness, that New Yorkers were making themselves homeless just to get cheap housing from the government. He replaced the Section 8 priority with a short-term subsidy that soon became a revolving door, forcing the homeless out of their new homes and back on the street.
Bloomberg complained that too many people who didn’t need help were taking advantage of the city’s shelter system. On WOR radio he said, “You can arrive in your private jet at Kennedy Airport, take a private limousine and go straight to the shelter system and walk in the door and we’ve got to give you shelter.”
"Cash" in cuffs, Ludlow Street
What gives some people anxiety is the increased visibility of the homeless. Well, this happens every summer. Homeless people are outside because it's warm.
It's also possible that cops are doing less hassling of the homeless, not hauling them off to Rikers simply for existing. And that's not a bad thing, either.
But keep up that scaremongering, fellas. You're doing a big favor for those of us who want our city back, who want an affordable, more interesting New York that isn't controlled by billionaires, tourists, and NYU students. By the way, have you heard of this handy little pamphlet called "Fear City"?